Bishop Modeste Demers
Demers was born on October 11, 1809 in Saint
Nicholas-de-Levis and was ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest on February 7, 1836 becoming Curate at Trois-Pistoles.
However, he felt a need to spread his religion to the people of the
Western Colonies, British
Columbia or the Red River Valley. In the summer of 1838, along with another
priest, Father Francis Norbert Blanchet, Demers left for the West by the
overland route which was not easy and required many modes of transportation. The priests were able to enjoy a small
celebratory mass on October 10 when they reached the summit of the Rocky Mountains amid the
West was made into an Apostolic Vicarite and Father Demers became the Pastor in
Oregon City as Portland was appointed as the See.
Eventually he rose to the role of Bishop when the area was changed to an
Ecclesiastical Province and chose the area of Victoria as the
place to start. Unlike most Bishops,
Demers did not have other priests to rely on or even a large congregation. The fort of Victoria was made
up of First Nations and a few white people who worked for the Hudson’s Bay
Company. Needing support from the
Church, Bishop Demers would travel to places in Europe and Quebec to promote
his plan for Victoria. One trip to Quebec in 1857 led
him to the Sisters of St Ann.
Demers was concerned about the state of education in Victoria and
wanted the convent to set up a school in Victoria. One of the first Orders he approached in Quebec was the
Sisters of Saint Ann. Among the 38
Sisters every one of them volunteered for the mission after hearing about the
poor children among the wilderness that the Bishop described to them. Demers led the four women chosen back to Victoria arriving
in 1858. Expecting to find a small
outpost, instead they found a town doubled in population thanks to the Fraser
Gold Rush. Bishop Demers would continue
to have a close relationship with the Sisters even at one point having his house
being cared for and his food prepared by the Sisters of St Ann. He died on July 21, 1871 in Victoria.